Have you read this book?
This trilogy works well as an omnibus novel. The three books tell a single tale with really no logical break between them, something I imagine annoyed people at the time. Lucky for me they were all here in one volume for my enjoyment.
Sometime in the far future humanity had a war with a species called the regul. These regul didn’t deign to fight themselves, but rather hired a warlike species called the mri to fight for them. These mri have a rigid caste society and very strict moral code. This code included taking no prisoners in battle, something that you can image pissed off the humans quite a bit. But the mri also seemed to believe in honorable single combat to settle differences, something the humans didn’t exactly go for. The end result being that after a pretty nasty war the mri were nearly wiped out and the regul decided to cut their losses, negotiating a treaty that ceded most of the disputed worlds to the humans.
As the humans come to claim the world of Kesrith, home base of the mri, an officer named Sten Duncan ends up fleeing from a last minute regul betrayal with a mri warrior named Nium. Duncan and the remnants of the mri set out on a quest to save the mri race.
While interesting, the story really didn’t grab me. The cultures were well done. Cherryh does a good job of building mostly believable aliens. She also manages to portray both humanity and the regul in a fairly impartial manner, showing both their strengths and weaknesses, good side and bad. Less successful were the mri. I personally think we were supposed to view them just a little to sympathetically. They pretty much screwed themselves over through their inability to adapt their moral code to the realities of the modern universe. Unfortunately, the alternative to mri success is mri extinction, something most of us clearly would not be comfortable with no matter what its evolutionary correctness. Quite frankly, the mri annoyed me all around. I didn’t like them and I didn’t like their moral code. If Cherryh intended this, then maybe she did do a good job of pulling off the balanced portrayal, but something in the back of my mind says she didn’t.
Reading these three books in one volume manages to showcase their excessive length. While none of the individual books is long, together they take too many pages. This story would have been improved by writing it as a single 450 page novel.
Also, I have a few nitpicks, such as mri separated in space for thousands of years being able to completely understand each other, with no noticeable linguistic or cultural differences. And the ending was disappointingly standard. I basically predicted its outline near the end of the second book.
I’m glad I read this, but it certainly isn’t in the required reading category for SF fans.